Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke of how Harry Maguire’s sheer stature on the pitch has already surprised him since the defender joined Manchester United.
The 26-year-old became the most expensive defender of all time earlier this week after completing an £80m transfer from Leicester City to Old Trafford.
Solskjaer confirmed at Friday’s press conference that Maguire, who has had a full pre-season, would start Sunday’s game against Chelsea.
The Norwegian also made a note of how Maguire, or ‘Slabhead’ as he is affectionately known, is essentially really, really massive.
Solskjær: “Harry [Maguire] has impressed me, very much so. He has come in as a presence. He is taller and bigger than I thought. He has come in as a real plus. He will have an impact on the rest of the boys." #mulive [mu]
— utdreport (@utdreport) August 9, 2019
This may just seem like a casual observation – “my god, look at the size of this fella, the sheer bloody size of him!” – but it actually cuts right to the heart of why United bought him.
In 2019, a defender must do a lot more than just defend. He has to set the tone. Passing sequences now begin with defenders, and it is their presence – their aura, as it were – at the back which underpins the tone of how a team plays. Look at John Stones calmly feeding the ball through to Fernandinho. Look at Virgil van Dijk, winning the ball and moving it back towards a counter.
At United, indecision has hallmarked how the ball is handled at the back far too often in recent years. With Maguire, they have a character who, both physically and technically, can make United seem a little taller on the pitch.